As Justin Timberlake's highly anticipated album "The 20/20 Experience" was on course to break early 2013 records, with sources estimating sales north of 800,000 in its first week, his label and management team started celebrating its balancing of multiple media-channel ubiquity against the risk of overexposure for the pop star.
The push behind "20/20" was a combination of traditional major-label tactics and innovative multimedia strategies--all driven by a hands-on, couture approach to the entire process from Timberlake and his circle of advisers, including longtime manager Johnny Wright and the M2M Construction marketing firm.
"20/20"'s campaign would ultimately include branding/sponsor partnerships with the likes of Target and Bud Light (for which Timberlake was named the brand's "creative director"). Prerelease streaming and other awareness campaigns were coordinated with e-tailers like iTunes and Amazon; appearances were set across major media--from a weeklong stint on "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon" to a ratings-smash hosting gig on "Saturday Night Live" to a bravura Grammy Awards performance, as well as Timberlake's own Target-sponsored TV special broadcast on the CW. Pointed radio spots in partnership with Clear Channel and CBS Radio saturated airwaves in the days before release, and many surprise announcements-a secret concert tied to Super Bowl weekend, a summer stadium tour with Jay-Z--ramped up buzz. Then Timberlake said he would release a follow-up album this fall, and a source confirms there will be a new solo tour to accompany the record.
"We had a short window, so it seems like a lot of things coming on top of each other," Wright says. While it appears like Timberlake has been saturating every possible outlet, RCA president/COO Tom Corson claims the "shock and awe" nature of the attack belied a more surgical approach than anything else. "[Timberlake] hasn't been doing every TV or print opportunity," Corson says. "While it feels like he's everywhere, he's been going with 'less is more.' He's been doing either large events or strategic."
Even more surprising is how the entire campaign unfolded in public during two months starting in January, with almost no leaks or deviation from message. Wright gives credit for that to Corson and RCA CEO Peter Edge.
The secrecy surrounding the project actually grew to become its biggest asset. As anticipation built, RCA senior VP of national sales Bob Anderson found "the viral aspect and word-of-mouth was going to take over the marketing strategy, and it worked in our favor. Whether or not Justin's recording again, or just going to do films, became the topic of conversation going into the fourth quarter."
That aspect paid off at retail as well, according to Brad Schelden, indie buyer for the Hollywood location of Amoeba Music and buyer for the chain's website. "As the marketing escalated, we've had more and more people asking about the album," he says.
A key element of the awareness approach, according to Wright, was familiarizing fans with the new music. "As the plan came together, [we thought] instead of doing [first single "Suit & Tie"] when Justin was on, say, 'Saturday Night Live' or 'Jimmy Fallon,' why don't we have him perform different songs each time?" Wright says. "We figured at some point the album would get out, but we wanted to deliver it first in a visual way. And then we have the relationship with iTunes where we agreed to allow them to stream the album a week before it was released."